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Old 02-25-2014, 04:08 PM   #1
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Improvements to upgrade Tow capacity??

I have a 1997 Chevy 3500 DRW with a NEW 454 and New Auto transmission both with 100k warranty with approx 96k remaining. Life circumstances dictate that we will become full time RVers a few years ahead of plan. This was one of my work trucks but is a Silverado with power everything, leather seats and also has new A/C and dryer upon motor changeout in Feb 0f 2013.

My question is has someone increased the tow capacity of one of these trucks and if so what improvements were made. I have attempted to do the research and there appears to be spring kits and tire wheel upgrades that would improve tow capacity. Funds dictate that a new truck is out of question at the moment and in reviewing the used trucks that do meet the 15k range I would like to meet. The selections get very limited if you consider the Disasters Ford had with Diesels until 2011 and Dodge 5.9 gets good grades but the Dodge body seems to get terrible reviews and the Duramax seems to have a mixed bag of reviews. I am not bashing any brands just stating what the research reveals. I have a 2002 Ford E350 with 7.3 in a work van and it has performed great, but nice 7.3 trucks in the 2002 yr range are commanding big $ and tow rating is sketchy.

Knowing what I have in my existing drivetrain, and knowing the unknowns in buying a used vehicle has made me investigate upgrading the 97 one ton dually I have. There were many 5th wheel campers made in early to late 90's that were in the 15k weight range and there wasn't anything really rated to tow them based on what I have read. I want to be within safety zones and having a hard time figuring out how the newer trucks magically meet the tow capacity and the older ones did not. I realize the last 2-3 yrs have seen major improvements, but what did folks use to pull 38' King of The Roads in the mid 90's?

Can I change rear springs, front coils and all shocks and upgrade to 8r x 19.5 wheels and tires and be compliant? The engine certainly has the power and only drawback is terrible gas mileage but we have a paid for Honda Fit that gets about 37mpg that we can drive as we do not plan to be moving every couple of weeks, we are thinking our moves will be 3-4 times a yr so hassle of having to drive the car and truck is not such a big deal. We expect to have about 30k to spend on 5th wheel and truck and using older truck would let us buy a newer coach. If we sell Honda to get a diesel truck we could add about 8k to budget, making it 38k, we have been looking at 32 to 38' 5th wheels and DW seems drawn to the larger size which are in 14k weight range.

Thanks in advance for your input
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Old 02-25-2014, 04:17 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Randy Q View Post
I have a 1997 Chevy 3500 DRW with a NEW 454 and New Auto transmission both with 100k warranty with approx 96k remaining. Life circumstances dictate that we will become full time RVers a few years ahead of plan. This was one of my work trucks but is a Silverado with power everything, leather seats and also has new A/C and dryer upon motor changeout in Feb 0f 2013.

My question is has someone increased the tow capacity of one of these trucks and if so what improvements were made. I have attempted to do the research and there appears to be spring kits and tire wheel upgrades that would improve tow capacity. Funds dictate that a new truck is out of question at the moment and in reviewing the used trucks that do meet the 15k range I would like to meet. The selections get very limited if you consider the Disasters Ford had with Diesels until 2011 and Dodge 5.9 gets good grades but the Dodge body seems to get terrible reviews and the Duramax seems to have a mixed bag of reviews. I am not bashing any brands just stating what the research reveals. I have a 2002 Ford E350 with 7.3 in a work van and it has performed great, but nice 7.3 trucks in the 2002 yr range are commanding big $ and tow rating is sketchy.

Knowing what I have in my existing drivetrain, and knowing the unknowns in buying a used vehicle has made me investigate upgrading the 97 one ton dually I have. There were many 5th wheel campers made in early to late 90's that were in the 15k weight range and there wasn't anything really rated to tow them based on what I have read. I want to be within safety zones and having a hard time figuring out how the newer trucks magically meet the tow capacity and the older ones did not. I realize the last 2-3 yrs have seen major improvements, but what did folks use to pull 38' King of The Roads in the mid 90's?

Can I change rear springs, front coils and all shocks and upgrade to 8r x 19.5 wheels and tires and be compliant? The engine certainly has the power and only drawback is terrible gas mileage but we have a paid for Honda Fit that gets about 37mpg that we can drive as we do not plan to be moving every couple of weeks, we are thinking our moves will be 3-4 times a yr so hassle of having to drive the car and truck is not such a big deal. We expect to have about 30k to spend on 5th wheel and truck and using older truck would let us buy a newer coach. If we sell Honda to get a diesel truck we could add about 8k to budget, making it 38k, we have been looking at 32 to 38' 5th wheels and DW seems drawn to the larger size which are in 14k weight range.

Thanks in advance for your input
Moving 3-4 times a year? I'd be tempted to use what ya have. It's a stout rig. Just go slow keep the rpm's up. There is no way to modify that truck to be compliant and if you are careful you will be as safe as many of the folks out their now the 3/4 tonner pulling the same load or some of the 1/2 tonners towing over their payload rating.

I pulled a 14K sailboat from LAS Vegas to Denver with a 1992 3/4 ton Suburban and survived. Wouldn't do it again tho.

Just my 2 cents.
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Old 02-25-2014, 04:24 PM   #3
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One thing to increase the towing capacity (Not load carrying capacity) is to put lower gears in the rear differential. If it has say 3.55:1 gears going to say 3.92:1 should increase towing capacity by about 2000 lbs.
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Old 02-25-2014, 05:20 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Randy Q View Post
Life circumstances dictate that we will become full time RVers a few years ahead of plan.
I am SOOO envious!!

Come on real estate market, give me a break...
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Old 02-26-2014, 10:24 AM   #5
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Quote:
My question is has someone increased the tow capacity of one of these trucks and if so what improvements were made.
You cannot increase the legal weight-hauling capacity (GVWR) of your dually. You can increase the legal weight-pulling (GCWR and tow rating) capacity of your dually, but you said “The engine certainly has the power”, so apparently you are happy with the performance of your drivetrain when towing heavy. If you later decide you want a bit more power to pull a 15k trailer over the mountain, then you can replace the ring gear and pinion in the differential(s) with one that has a bigger number, i.e., replace your 3.73 ratio with a 4.10 (10% difference) or 4.30 (15%) or even a real stump-pulling 4.62 (24%). Those “shorter legs” will probably decrease unloaded MPG, but probably won’t affect the heavy-loaded MPG when dragging a 15k 5er. Way back when, my 454 got terrible MPG whether empty or overloaded.

For the GVWR, you can use old farmer’s tricks to mask the symptoms of being overloaded. Those tricks won’t change your legal GVWR, but they will work to let you “get by” until you can afford to buy more truck.

To fix the sag in the rear suspension, install RideRite air bags and pump them up enough to raise the rear of the wet and loaded tow vehicle up so your headlights don’t blind oncoming drivers.

Heat is the killer of overloaded tow vehicle’s drivetrain components. So you need aftermarket gauges to tell you the temps, and probably some mods to prevent overheating. Change the rear diff lube to full synthetic. Change the ATF to full synthetic. Synthetic ATF and lube can handle more heat without deteriorating than dino ATF and lubes. Synthetic motor oil is a waste of money, so don’t bother with that, but change the dino oil and filter every 5,000 miles or so, or based on oil analysis reports. My PowerStroke manual said every 3,000 miles when towing, but Blackstone oil analysis said 5,500 miles. So I used a 5,000-mile oil change interval (OCI).

First, install aftermarket gauges for tranny temp, engine oil temp, engine coolant temp. If the gauges show tranny sump temp over 225, then you need more tranny cooling capacity. If the coolant gets too hot, then you need a bigger radiator. If your 454 does not have an oil cooler, then add one. A simple way to add an oil cooler is with a “sandwich adapter” that fits between the oil filter and the block. The hot oil comes out of the adapter, goes to a heat exchanger then returns to the engine via the adaper. The heat exchanger (cooler) can be installed somewhere in front of the radiator, or even under the truck if required. And if even more cooling is needed, then they make heat exchangers with fans that are controlled by a thermostat in the cooler return line. That fan comes on any time the return ATF or motor oil is over about 180.

Quote:
I have attempted to do the research and there appears to be spring kits and tire wheel upgrades that would improve tow capacity.
Not necessary in your case. If you have LT235/85R16E tires on a dually, then that’s enough tire weight capacity to handle the hitch weight of a 15k 5er without overloading your tires. With 3,000 pounds of hitch weight, your GVW on the truck tires should not be over about 13,000 pounds, and your LT235/85R16E tires have a combined weight capacity over 16,000 pounds

As mentioned above, install RideRite air bags and pump them up enough to raise the rear of the wet and loaded tow vehicle so your headlights don’t blind oncoming drivers. That patches the rear suspension. With the hitch and kingpin and air bags properly adjusted, the floor of the trailer should be level front to rear when on the road with a heavy 5er, and the stance of the tow vehicle should “look right” – i.e. not be sagging in the rear. Your front tires can support up to 6,000 pounds on the front axle, and I doubt you'll be anywhere near that. If your front GAWR is less than about 5,000 pounds, then yeah, you might need to replace the front coils with heavier-duty springs, but I doubt that will be necessary. Drive it loaded and notice how the front suspension reacts. If it drives good, then don't worry about the front coils.

Be sure you have good shocks that are not worn out. You probably don't need heavier-duty shocks, but you don't want to be towing with worn-out shocks either.

Quote:
There were many 5th wheel campers made in early to late 90's that were in the 15k weight range and there wasn't anything really rated to tow them based on what I have read… . I realize the last 2-3 yrs have seen major improvements, but what did folks use to pull 38' King of The Roads in the mid 90's?
There were lots of suitable tow vehicles for a 15 to 20k 5er, gooseneck LQ race trailer or LQ horse trailer. But not a factory pickup. Depending on how much truck you needed, you started with a class 4 thru 6 chassis cab truck, such as Ford F-450, F-550, or F-650, or GM or Dodge 4500, 5500 or 6500. Add an aftermarket tow body and BINGO! you have “enuff truck” to get the job done without exceeding any of the manufacturer’s weight limits. Lots of folks converted International 4700 chassis cab trucks by adding a tow body. And some of the “rich guys” even had “Baby Pete” or “Baby Kenworth” medium duty conversions with a tow body. And if you couldn’t afford a Western Hauler or Herrin Hauler bed for your F-450 chassis cab, then you could get by with a plain flat bed with a 5er hitch. I’ve seen all of those in RV parks over the years.

The big difference in current dually pickups and your '97 includes stronger frames and rear axles, and a lot more power from the engine. For example, a 2001 F-350 DRW diesel had 230 horses and 500 lb/ft torque. A 2012 F-350 DRW diesel has 400 horses and 800 lb/ft torque. So that 2001 had GCWR of 20,000 pounds, while that 2012 has GCWR of 30,000 pounds. Big difference, and contrary to internet rumor, it's real and not just marketing hype.
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Old 02-26-2014, 07:25 PM   #6
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How often do Rv's get pulled into scales? i have been RVing for 38 yrs but never with 5th wheel and pushing or exceeding the limit, is this really a major concern? I am willing to upgrade the truck to newer model but frustrated by all the junk models and limited selection.
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Old 02-26-2014, 09:03 PM   #7
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I hate buying someone else's problems, so I try very hard to buy new and not used. My first concern is buying enough truck to tow the trailer without exceeding any of the weight limits. But I can "get by" with a stripped work truck with options of only cruise control and cloth seats. I love my Lariat SuperCrew, but an XL SuperCab is all I really need. So if I needed a new truck to tow a 15k 5er, I'd order a new F-350 DRW diesel with XL trim and only a few options to make the traveling and driving bearable for long trips. On Ford New Cars, Trucks, SUVs, Hybrids & Crossovers, here's the truck I would "build and price" for towing a 15k 5er at minimum investment in a new tow vehicle:

2014 F-350 XL DRW 4x2 SuperCab diesel = $43,200
XL Value pkg (includes cruise control) = $595
5er hitch prep (because it's cheap compared to aftermarket) = $370
Cloth seats (instead of plastic "work truck" seats) = $100
Freight = $1,195
---------------------
MSRP = $45,460
================

You'll pay invoice price instead of MSRP, so it will be about around $41,000 plus TT&L.

Also the optional Reese Elite 25k 5er hitch from the Ford factory is $1,695 MSRP, and you can get the Reese Elite 18k from etrailer.com for $1268.39. 25k is overkill - the 18k is all you'll ever need for a 15k 5er. So plan on another $1,300 investment for the 18k 5er hitch that will fit nicely in the the Ford prep kit.

Go to Edmunds.com and build and price that exact truck and get the invoice cost. If you order the truck, most dealers will deliver it to you for invoice cost.

You can get it around $7,000 cheaper if you go for the gas engine instead of diesel. That would be a real sacrifice for me, because I've owned a Ford diesel for over 11 years and it was a wonderful towing machine. The gasser will probably pull the load, but it will drink lots of gas doing it. Something like a 454 Chevy.
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Old 02-26-2014, 09:47 PM   #8
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I towed a 12k trailer for 9 years with a 98 k2500 diesel with 4.10 housing. It was a real good pulling machine rated for 8600 lbs while the 454 like yours with same drive train was rated for 12k.
For 3 years I towed a 2000 lbs car behind the trailer with hardly any change in performance but harder on fuel.
Your ton truck will survive quit well with the trailer in tow. Like some said you will need to watch the temperatures. But it was never an issue with my 2500 6.5 diesel which was known to be the little bros of the big 454 those days.
You have experience, so use it wisely.
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Old 02-27-2014, 08:30 PM   #9
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Tow capacity is based on the total configuration of the truck. Tow capacities have increased since your truck was built. If you want to rebuild your truck from the ground up I am sure you could increase the tow capacity to match the new ones. The best way is to buy a new truck.
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Old 03-01-2014, 06:20 AM   #10
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if you are tying to increase the weight you can haul in the bed of the truck, spring/shock/air bag/increased tire ratings type mods can help with performance but not with the OEM "official rating" .... if you are tying to increase the weight you can tow, gearing/computer programmers/and depending on the hitching the mods listed above can enhance performance .... with power programmers be sure you don't overpower your tranny/drivetrain

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Old 03-01-2014, 09:00 AM   #11
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How often do Rv's get pulled into scales?
Rarely in the lower 48. Canada is a different story. In the USA the scales in most states are for commercial trucks, including Hot Shot truckers that use dually pickups for their trucks. But RV trailers don't go through the scales. When you're cruising down the highway with your big RV trailer, the LEOs won't mess with you unless you are driving erratically or maybe if your tow vehicle "looks" overloaded. So don't drive drunk, and pump up your air bags so your rear suspension is not sagging, and the LEOs will rarely stop you.

Rarely doesn't mean it won't happen. If a state governor knows that overloaded RVs are causing too many wrecks, then he can order the State Troopers to crack down on overloaded RVs. Again, that's rare, but it has happened.

If a LEO does check your weights, they will almost never check GVW or GCW. They check axle weight (GAW) and compare it to GAWR. Or maybe the weight on one tire and compare it to the weight capacity of that tire. If you are overloaded over the GAWR of your tow vehicle, air bags will not increase your GAWR.

If I were a LEO wanting to impress my boss during the Governor's Crackdown by writing lots of tickets for overloaded RVs, I would concentrate on tow vehicles with single rear wheels (SRW) dragging 28-foot or longer fifth wheel trailers. And half-ton pickups or SUVs dragging big TTs. And dually pickups sagging in the rear end with the headlights aimed at the stars.
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Old 03-01-2014, 09:27 AM   #12
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Smokey,

and your LT235/85R16E tires have a combined weight capacity over 16,000 pounds

Your front tires can support up to 6,000 pounds on the front axle,


How do the rear tires support 4k each, but the front 3k each? Is there a typo in there? What am I missing?

Joe
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Old 03-01-2014, 10:00 AM   #13
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I had a '89 DRW 454 w/Auto loaded w/ 8'slide-un camper and towed a 26' box trailer with an '88 race Camaro and all the tools, tires etc to race with. Traveled from Mosport in Canada to Daytona and Lime ROck in CT to Indy raceway park. Sold it in '98 with 60k on it with zero problems and I made no modifications. Just took my time accelerating and planned ahead for stopping.
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Old 03-01-2014, 10:06 AM   #14
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Smokey,

and your LT235/85R16E tires have a combined weight capacity over 16,000 pounds

Your front tires can support up to 6,000 pounds on the front axle,


How do the rear tires support 4k each, but the front 3k each? Is there a typo in there? What am I missing?

Joe
Fronts rated for 3,042# each or 6,084 or more than F GAWR
Rears rated for 2,778# each or 11,112# which is more than the 10k GAWR
and
This is 17,196 which is more than GVWR so it meets regulation

Don't see a problem
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